Theo Epstien said late Sunday night that he felt like this week at the Winter Meetings was going to be a wild one for the Cubs. As the first day ended, nothing had come from the Cubs besides rumors that even Jed Hoyer had no idea about, saying ” I’m just now learning of what we are doing.” Day two say the Cardinals trade OF Jon Jay away to the Padres in exchange for INF Jedd Gyrko, making them the first NL Central team to make a move at the 2015 Winter Meetings. And then, during the late afternoon reports had broke out that the Cubs were working on a free agent/ trade type deal, and many speculated the people involved would be free agent utility man Ben Zobrist, and Cubs 2B Starlin Castro. And then, news broke that Ben Zobrist had signed a 4-year, 56 million dollar deal to become a Chicago Cub. With this happening, most assumed that Castro would be dealt soon, and sure enough foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cubs and Yankees were in talks discussing a trade that would send Castro to New York. Moments later it was announced that the Cubs would be sending Starlin Castro to the Yankees, in exchange for RHP Adam Warren, and a player to be named which the Yankees do not plan to announce until after the Rule 5 draft.

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Starlin Castro had become a fan favorite of Cubs fans after he moved to second base and improved his hitting drastically. He was playing better defense, hitting the ball more and in clutch spots, and was jolting the team towards a long playoff run. Oh, and you can’t forget his catchy walk-up song that had any Cubs fan, and even some fans of opposing teams, clapping along to it. A lot of people are sad to see him go as many of us who have followed the team religiously through the ups and downs watched the 26 year old infielder grow and develop into a great young player, which included 3 all-star appearances. With that being said, trading Starlin Castro was absolutely the right deal for the Cubs to do, and improved them more than if they would have kept him on the team.

Why do I say this? Two words. Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is quietly one of the best all around free agents in the 2015 class, being able to play multiple positions in the field, while being a tremendous contact hitter. Oh, did I also mention he can switch hit? The Cubs struggled against certain righties during the 2015 season and Zobrist is the type of guy who could easily get them over that hump by simply being able to move to the other side of the plate and hit the ball just as well. During the 2015 season, Zobrist hit .329 as a left-handed batter, including 3 home runs, while hitting .252 as a RHH, including 10 bombs. He’s the type a guy that can lead-off for you and get on, or be a viable 2 hitter moving over a potential Jayson Heyward or Javier Baez hitting out of the lead off spot. Maddon proved during the 2015 season that no matter who was on base, he wasn’t afraid to put on a hit and run and get aggressive to try and manufacture runs. That’s where a guy like Zobrist fits in, having a K rate sitting at 10.5%, meaning he puts the ball in play more times than not, and having a .288 BABIP. Another reason the signing of Zobrist was huge for the Cubs is because he is a vet who can still play the game at an elite level, on a team whose talent comes from mostly players under the age of 26. Zobrist brings the experience of coming from a team who just won the World Series in 2015, and was also a huge part of a Rays team who made multiple, deep  postseason runs ranging from 2008 to 2011, including a World Series berth in 2008. Does anybody remember who the manager was of that team back in 08? That’s right, it was your very own Joe Maddon who ran the helm of that team, making Zobrist an even greater fit in a Cubs uniform considering he has great chemistry with Maddon.

Yes, I understand some concerns of Cubs fans that giving a 34 year old a 4 year deal might be a little daunting, but it just shows that the Cubs FO has trust in the fact that the Cubs have the ability to win right now, and will do anything in its power to improve the chances of that. Along with the 56 million Zobrist has agreed to, he also has a full no-trade clause for the first 3 years of his contract, and a 2 million dollar signing bonus up front, and then 10 mil after that for a total of 12 mil in the first year, then 16, 16, 12 to finish off the final 3.

Like I mentioned above, in order to sign Ben Zobrist, the Starlin Castro deal had to fall into place. The Yankees liked Castro at the trade deadline, liking the idea of him playing second base along side Didi Gregorious. The trade deadline passed without the Yanks making a move on the young shortstop, but then days later Cubs manager Joe Maddon benched Castro, then moved him to playing second base full time while rookie Addison Russell took over the shortstop position. Doing this meant the Yankees got to see first hand what he could do at the position, and man did they like what they saw as he hit .369 during the months of September and October, including hitting .425 in the month of September alone. That made this deal so much more intriguing to the Yankees and they made sure it happened.

Its been said before the season even ended that the Cubs would need pitching during the offseason, in both their bullpen and their starting rotation. To begin the offseason, the spent the majority of their time signing relievers the felt like could help the team this year or in future years, before going out Friday and signing ex-Cardinal John Lackey. Then during the first day of the winter meetings, they went back to bolstering their bullpen by resigning RHP Trevor Cahill to a one year contract giving him 4.25 million for that year. In the trade that sent Castro to New York, the Cubs did a little bit of both, acquiring Adam Warren, who can be a potential 4/5 starter, while also coming out of the pen in relief. During the 2015 season, Warren pitched 131 1/3 innings, posting a 7-7 record which included 17 starts. He pitched to the tune of a 3.29 ERA, which included 104 strikeouts. Warren pitched 35 1/3 of those innings in relief, posting a 2,29 ERA and including 37 strikeouts and a BAA of .208. Warren has a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and goes to his slider more than any other of his other pitches, using it 29% of the time. Although he uses his slider more than his change-up, his change-up is by far one of his best pitches, sporting a 7.8 runs above average while using it(which is good for pitchers, considering this would be a -7.8 for hitter. Yes, saber-metrics are fun.) Like stated above, Warren is the type of pitcher that can start in the 4/5 spot in place of maybe an injured or struggling Hammel, but can also be a viable option out of the pen giving the Cubs another one of those type of pitchers. The Cubs are also receiving a player to be named in the Castro deal, but as mentioned the announcement won’t come till after the Rule 5 draft, although many are speculating its INF Brendan Ryan.

My final reason on why shipping Starlin Castro was good for the Cubs is that it gives the Cubs a chance to still attack high quality free agents, especially to target their needs in the OF. Names that have been mentioned have been Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, and Carlos Gonzales. The Cubs have said that they are focused on Heyward as of right now, stating he is looking for a 10 year deal and mentioning they will have to get creative to make it happen. This is also a good deal because it gives the Cubs 2 to 3 utility-type players in Zobrist, Baez, and Coghlan.

Starlin Castro spent 6 seasons as a Chicago Cub, and gave Cubs fans a lot of meaningful memories that huge fans of him will never forget. He was the star of a team who for 5 seasons failed to have a winning season, teams that were terrible and never once did he complain or ask a for a trade. He stuck it out and will be greatly missed by Cubs fans. More updates to come as the Winter Meetings begin to heat up.

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